China marks 60th anniversary on TV

Foreign journalists, ordinary citizens barred from festivities

Foreign acts canceled at Beijing fest

BEIJING -- TV was the best place to watch China's 60th anniversary celebration Thursday, when state media broadcast live coverage of a parade boasting military might and social harmony to the one-party nation's 1.3 billion people.

The government barred ordinary citizens and most foreign journalists from viewing the event from anywhere but on television.

China Central Television also fed footage of the uninterrupted 2.5-hour event around the world in six languages, spreading the Chinese Communist Party's view of its progress since the founding of the People's Republic by Mao Zedong on Oct. 1, 1949.

After a light overnight rain, sun shone from the first smog-free skies over the capital in three days. President Hu Jintao, standing up through the open sunroof of a black limousine and wearing a black traditional high-collared jacket, began the parade shouting to tens of thousands of uniformed troops as he passed them standing at attention along the Avenue of Eternal Peace, bisecting the capital from east to west.

"Hello, comrades!" and "How you have suffered!" Hu shouted into microphones mounted atop the car. "We serve the people!" the soldiers shouted back.

China, which is poised to surpass Japan as the world’s No. 2 economy by 2010, now produces in a day the equivalent of a year’s output five decades ago.

Streets around Tiananmen Square were cleared of automobiles and businesses were shut to make way for the parade of more than 100,000 soldiers, citizens and children marching with 60 parade floats to represent China's 34 provinces, autonomous regions and cities, its 56 ethnic groups and myriad industries. Some bore giant portraits of Mao and his most prominent successors: Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu.

CCTV commentators proclaimed the achievements of each leader, province and industry as they passed the Gate of Heavenly Peace on the square, adorned with a giant portrait of Mao.  Leaders past and present stood atop the gate and waved to performers below.

As seen from aerial television shots, the square was filled with tens of thousands of performers flipping colored placards in unison to form giant sayings in Chinese characters for television viewers.

"Do As the Party Says," read one; "Be Ready to Fight with Bravery" read another.

The sayings echoed catchphrases of the key political speeches given over the past 60 years,  clips of which were played on loudspeakers around the city of 17.4 million people.

Jia Meiqin, who was a 12-year-old schoolgirl when she released balloons in front of Mao when he addressed the crowed gathered on Tiananmen Square in 1959 for China's 10th anniversary celebration, joked as she watched Thursday's broadcast. Most ordinary Chinese, she said, don't know what many of the catchphrases mean. Of Jiang's most famous -- "The Three Represents" -- she said: "To us, we just hoped it meant money, food, and clothes on our backs. That's all that matters."

Luke Minford, a British lawyer who as a child lived in the nearby port of Tianjin, said CCTV's coverage reminded him of propaganda television he watched when he was 10 years old in 1979.

The party's promotion of the anniversary was widespread in state-controlled newspapers, radio and on the Internet. Last week, state-owned China Mobile automatically swapped in kung fu film star Jackie Chan's new song "Nation" as the optional hold music users hear when waiting for someone to answer their call.

Not since the opening and closing of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 has CCTV hosted so long an uninterrupted live broadcast. The event was transmitted to CCTV's six international channels in Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. Its four main domestic channels also carried the event commercial-free.

Overseas reporters, particularly those from television broadcasters who had booked expensive live satellite time, expressed frustration at the lack of access to the event.

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of China received many complaints from members about problems with the allocation of media passes and a lack of transparency about the accreditation process.

"Journalists who did get passes got them late at night (on Wednesday), after many hours of waiting. Other passes remained unclaimed after correspondents had left in frustration. Some members who did wait were nonetheless excluded entirely," the group said in a statement calling on authorities for better coordination in keeping with Beijing's pledges of media openness.

Concurrent with CCTV's broadcast, the British Broadcasting Corp and CNN showed live highlights of the event using CCTV footage. Major German, French and Italian broadcasters stuck with regular programming.

Much of what CCTV showed was China's troops, tanks, missiles and, flying overhead, its military aircraft. Commentators emphasized the hardware's capabilities and China's recently increased role in peacekeeping in select minor conflicts around the world.

Some parade floats promoted concepts such as "Environmental Protection," while others focused on the achievements of a given province -- "The Three Gorges Dam" project in Hubei, for instance.

One float represented Taiwan, the self-governing island Beijing has called a renegade province since the Nationalists lost the Chinese Civil War in 1949. CCTV commentators said the Taiwan float represented China's "shipping, mail and air travel industries and the promotion of peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Straits."

The event broadcast was available in standard definition nationwide and -- for about 50 million set-top box subscribers in nine provinces and major cities -- also in a new, free high-definition signal, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

Just before 12:30 p.m., the parade ended with 8,000 members of the Communist Youth League releasing balloons in front of and waving up at Hu and other leaders.

The broadcast was followed by a series of taped congratulations from world leaders and diplomats, including Israeli president Shimon Peres and Amr Moussa, secretary general of the League of Arab States.

CCTV's Web site advertised advance orders for DVD copies of the celebrations in both Chinese and English.

The celebrations continued Thursday at 8 p.m. local time with a fireworks display designed by Zhang Yimou, the film director who choreographed the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, and dance and musical performances, emphasizing China's minority peoples and ending with a live song by Chan.